Chelsea v Manchester City: Was Drogba or Yaya more influential in his club’s rise?

Which of their African stars played the greater role in propelling the Blues and the Citizens to the pinnacle of the English game?

It’s only five matches into the season, but already Saturday’s meeting between Chelsea and Manchester City has the feel of a title decider.

While the London Blues are top of the table (on head-to-head from Liverpool by virtue of their away goal in the pulsating 1-1 draw against at Anfield a fortnight ago), the visiting Citizens are three points further back. It is nevertheless accepted that these two will have been the principal actors in the title drama come May.

Some of that is to do with the fact that Chelsea are reigning European champions, and have in the dugout the man considered to be the strongest tactician in the business in some circles. Thomas Tuchel’s transformation of the side has garnered many column inches, as has the sheer meanness of the rearguard he has constructed.

However, in adding a true blockbuster centre-forward in Romelu Lukaku this summer, the London club simply reinforced a core tenet of their rise over the last 20 years: a relentless focus on recruiting the game’s elite talents.

Thomas Tuchel Romelu Lukaku Chelsea

On their part, City have, historically, been strong finishers.

A slow start in 2018/19 had Pep Guardiola’s men eight points back at the turn of the year, before they stormed back to overtake Liverpool and claim the crown.

They may be a little off the pace – they were in fact fortunate not to concede a penalty in the goalless draw with Southampton last weekend – but they have added the league’s strongest ball carrier in Jack Grealish to what was an already stellar squad.

There is a sense already that, especially considering the fact City did not manage to sign the striker they clearly wanted, the margin may simply come down to which big-money signing pays off more

Jack Grealish Pep Guardiola Manchester City

Wielding immense financial muscle is, of course, an approach that has defined the entrance of these two clubs into the aristocracy.

Over the first two decades of the Premier League, it would have been unthinkable for this fixture to have such a feel of definitiveness.

Indeed, their meetings often featured lopsided results, especially at Stamford Bridge—after the inaugural season in 1992/93, Chelsea did not lose a home game to Manchester City until 2009/10.